Thank God for Gratitude - Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration
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Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration
Clyde, Missouri ❄ Tucson, Arizona ❄ Dayton, Wyoming
From Sister Pat
of Perpetual Adoration
A major theme for the Advent-Christmas season
springs from the title “Emmanuel,” which, as St.
Matthew tells us in the first chapter of his gospel
account, means God is with us. This is an intriguing
and challenging truth for us who are striving to
know Jesus better and follow him more closely in our lives.
Jesus was born into and nurtured in the Jewish faith. He was likely taught to
avoid associating with Samaritans and the Roman invaders of his homeland.
Such teaching basically said God-with-us was not God-with-them. Yet it is
31970 State Highway P
Clyde, MO 64432-8100
Telephone: (660) 944-2221
Email: [email protected]
intriguing to note that as Jesus grew in knowledge of his heavenly Father,
he gradually cast aside that teaching. Even though his encounters with
Samaritans, Roman gentiles, and even women, might have initially been a
bit testy, after a few verbal volleys he began to understand that these people
were worthy of his compassionate care and healing touch. God was with(in)
I believe it is possible that as Jesus grew in the self knowledge of his own
divine nature, he was able to recognize it in others. Rabbi Arthur Green says,
Any Judaism that veers from the ongoing work of helping us allow every
human being to become and be seen as God’s image in the fullest way
possible is a distortion of our religion. That ongoing challenge requires
us in each generation to widen the circle of those seen by us as fully
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human, as bearing God’s image, as we seek to expand the bounds of the
holy. As we find God’s image in ever more of humanity, we open ourselves to ever more of God’s presence.
The truth that Rabbi Green expresses also holds true for us Christians. God
with us is conveyed through every human being.
God sent his only Son, fully human and fully divine, to dwell on earth. His life
was his lesson: he saw as no one else seemed to see, that humans are
indeed made in God’s image, that God is indeed with us in each manifestation of his creation. As His followers, may we come to know and accept this
In the Lord Jesus,
San Benito Monastery
PO Box 510
Dayton, WY 82836-0510
Telephone: (307) 655-9013
Email: [email protected]
Sr. Pat Nyquist, OSB
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Thank God for Gratitude
MARY S. SHERIDAN
Popcorn in a
SR. DAWN ANNETTE MILLS, OSB
SR. JEANETTE VON HERRMANN, OSB
The Art of Gentleness
SR. BEDE LUETKEMEYER, OSB
Christ the Light
Blessings and Bequests
SR. DAWN ANNETTE MILLS, OSB
From Sr. Pat
From the Editor
Community News ............. 17
Front Cover: Benedictine Monastery
grounds, Clyde, Missouri.
Credit: Kathleen Clare Lahl, OSB
STAFF: Lenora Black, OSB, editor; Reparata Hopp, OSB; Dawn Annette Mills, OSB; Kelley Baldwin; M. Bede
Luetkemeyer, OSB; Jeanette von Herrmann, OSB; Kathleen Clare Lahl, OSB, and Mary S. Sheridan.
ART AND PHOTO CREDITS: Tom Henning, IFC; Kathleen Clare Lahl, OSB, IFC, pp. 2, 11; John Santiago, p. 3;
Veronica Marie, p. 5; Supreet Vaid, p. 7; David Sanders, pp. 8, 20, 22; Zanetta Hardy, p. 9; NASA Hubble Carmina
Nebula, p. 10; Rodolfo Clix, p. 13; Kelley Baldwin, p. 17; Josetta Grant, OSB, and Hope Rodenborn, OSB, p. 18;
American Benedictine Formation Conference, p. 19; Lenora Black, OSB, p. 22.
LAYOUT AND DESIGN: Sharon Nicks, Types
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FROM THE EDITOR
When this magazine reaches you, Christmas decorations will already have replaced pumpkins, bats and
broomsticks. While the secular season gears up for
Christmas sales, the liturgical season moves into the
quiet, reflective mode of Advent longing. Birth is the
culmination of a long period of gestation, not an isolated
event without a history. This issue has little about Christmas festivities but, hopefully, it invites reflection on the
Paradoxically, while our whole life is a preparation for
our own decisive birth into eternal life, we can quietly
give birth to the Holy One in countless ways, Christmas
or not. This is especially urgent in view of the pressing
social neediness in our own neighborhoods as well as far
away. There is something almost obscene about the
pressure to buy brightly packaged, glitzy toys, and
baubles that only the rich can afford. What options do we
have in response?
The Advent liturgical readings offer suggestions for
action as well as reflection. While we experience with
dismay the increased polarization of our political process, the Advent Scriptures bring a message of inclusion:
wolf and lamb, calf and lion, cow and bear, all grazing
and lying down together (Is 11:6-7). Wherever we can
build bridges instead of walls, we give birth to
Emmanuel—even a very simple bridge could ease
movement from suspicion to understanding.
Justice is a major concern of the Advent prophets. Micah
describes concisely what God asks of us: do justice, love
kindness, and walk humbly with our God (Mi 6:8). To
do this is to give birth to right relationship in our
communities—always a Christmas event. Especially
when depressing news dominates the media, we need to
recognize and affirm each new appearance of God and
God’s grace among us, however dramatic, or quiet and
“Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (I
Jn 4:7). God takes flesh in our lives and in the lives of
those around us, whenever we act unselfishly from love.
In Enter the Story1 Fran Ferder eloquently describes this
Incarnation of the holy happens whenever we act
justly, love tenderly, and walk in truth with our
God. Sometimes it develops slowly, when we
consciously set out on the long journey toward
integrity, and honor that commitment over the
course of our lives. Other times an opportunity for
giving birth comes upon us when we least expect it,
when we are ill prepared for the demands of love
that rise up in front of us—an apology is called for,
a truth needs to be announced, words of forgiveness
must be spoken, affirmation is needed.
Even if we, like Mary, cannot choose where and when we
may be called upon to birth the Holy One, we can be
alert to the small opportunities we have in our ordinary
relationships and commitments. We can also affirm those
who act in ways that are life-giving. Because it is so easy
to criticize unkindly or aggravate a climate of incivility,
honest affirmation requires effort and creativity. We have
choices to make, but what better opportunity is there to
honor the coming of God into our midst?
Sr. Lenora Black, OSB
Fran Ferder, Enter the Story: Biblical Metaphors for Our Lives, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2010) p. 69.
Thank God for Gratitude
MARY S. SHERIDAN
very fall, we are inundated with messages
about being grateful. Gratitude, we are told,
is a debt that we owe to God and others. We
are “obliged” (obligated) or “beholden” (indebted)
to them, to use the old expressions. We ought to pay
this debt, and to feel under its obligation until we
Gratitude is a conflicted virtue for many people. It
is easy to accept thanks, but harder to be thankful.
Politicians sneer at the words “needy” and “dependent,” and those who minister to the impoverished
are misguided. By receiving from others, we learn,
we have failed to live up to the American ideal of
bootstrap self-sufficiency. Never mind that the ideal
is impossible and destructive to any sense of community if it could be achieved. “You owe me” (said
or unsaid) quickly translates into “you own me.”
Nobody wants to be owned.
This is a miserly approach to thankfulness. What we
often fail to realize is that gratitude, like so many
other virtues, benefits ourselves as much as those to
whom we are grateful. This is one of the insights of
“positive psychology,” a relatively new field which
focuses on what goes right in human behavior, not
just what goes wrong.1
What are some of the things that gratitude does for
us? To begin with, it bonds us to others in ties of
mutual interdependence and love. When my friends
help me, as they did with a recent garage sale, I feel
closer than if we simply meet for lunch. I want, in
turn, to be a
better friend to
them, to help
them in their
Likewise, gratitude helps bond
us to God. When we begin to recognize the many
things, large and small, that God does for us each
day, we cannot help but respond with love. Did God
have to create the double rainbow I saw recently? My
heart fills with thankfulness: “Behold the rainbow!
Then bless its Maker, for majestic indeed is its
splendor” (Sirach 43:11). Once I begin consciously
to notice God’s work, it is all around me—the break
in traffic, the bit of coral on the beach, the dollar
store clerk who has a smile for each customer. Each
reflects the goodness of God, and we need these
reflections badly to counteract the “stern judge”
image of God that is still too prevalent.
Gratitude is also good for our psychological and
even physical health.2 Cognitive psychologists know
that the stories we tell ourselves are powerful. If we
constantly remind ourselves, for example, that we
have been poorly treated and our lives are not going
well, then this becomes our truth. We will seldom fail
to find confirmatory examples. If we tell ourselves
that we are blessed, however, then that becomes our
worldview, and our daily experiences bear it out. If
we can change the story we tell ourselves, then our
view of the world can change as well. Emmons found
See, for example, Emmons, Robert A., Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (New York: Houghton
Mifflin, 2007), Ch. 1.
this to be true when he instructed his research
subjects to keep a “gratitude journal.” Although he
cautions that personality change doesn’t occur
overnight, Emmons says that, “If you want to
dramatically improve the quality of your life,”3
simply write down regularly the things you are
thankful for. Another version of this advice is to
remember, at the close of the day, three things for
which we are grateful, and thank God for them.
Gratitude can do powerful work in helping to resolve
the conflicts and disappointments of our lives. Most
of us have, at times, truly been poorly treated in ways
that we have not deserved. Most of us have, at times,
truly been blessed—also in ways that we have not
deserved. Most families have elements of dysfunction, but they are seldom only dysfunctional. If the
negatives are all we see, our resentments grow and
our disposition sours. If we can remember the good
parts and be grateful for them, our lives will be
happier. We will be less depressed. We will find it
easier to forgive. This does not mean denying the
hurtful times, but seeking a balance in our memories
and being open to the good recollections. I have
found that praying for this gift is helpful.
Overall, says Mary Jo Leddy,4 a spirit of gratitude
frees us from the endless dissatisfaction that is
taught to us by a consumption-oriented economy.
Recognizing what we have helps us to recognize what
is “enough.” This is balm for our souls, not just our
pocketbooks. Leddy also recognizes how gratitude
enriches our spirituality, saying:
Gratitude is the foundation of faith in God as the
Creator of all beginnings, great and small. It awakens the imagination to another way of being, to
another kind of economy, the great economy of
grace in which each person is of infinite value and
Even though Leddy’s work is with refugees, she
considers her vocation to be gratitude.6
One author who has focused extensively on gratitude
is Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast. Henri
Nouwen, in his preface to Steindl-Rast’s book,
Gratefulness: The Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life
in Fullness,7 describes him as a man whose life is
constantly enriched by gratitude:
Whenever Brother David came to visit me he
surprised me with his gratefulness—not just
gratefulness for what I or others did or said but
gratefulness for the many gifts I had come to take
for granted. He saw flowers with an expression of
discovery and surprise, he looked at the sky as a
marvelous piece of art, he admired poetry, music,
and handicrafts with a spontaneous enthusiasm,
and he kept discovering endless new occasions to
say thanks and offer praise to his God who keeps
showering him with new gifts.
Steindl-Rast also believes that gratitude forms loving
bonds between the giver of gifts and the giver of
gratitude. He sees this as circular, saying, “We grow
in love when we grow in gratefulness. And we grow
in gratefulness when we grow in love.”8 And later,
“Growth in grateful love is also growth in prayer.”9
So important is gratitude to Brother David that he
founded “A Network for Grateful Living”
(www.gratefulness.org). This virtual community
website contains many resources for grateful and
more spiritual living, from the individual level to the
global. Other resources are also easily available on
the Internet using “gratitude” as a search term.
Truly, our lives are blessed when we stop to give
thanks. For our own sakes, let us cultivate it as a
habit. In this season, and throughout the year, let us
thank God for the gift of gratitude. ✵
Leddy, Radical Gratitude, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2002).
The Art of Gentleness
SR. BEDE LUETKEMEYER, OSB
n one of his poems, Rilke used the phrase, “the
art of gentleness.”1 Yes, gentleness is an art but it
is also a virtue. If it is an art and a virtue, it must
be learned and practiced. If it is to be practiced, it
may help to learn its nature. Gentleness is such a
subtle virtue that drawing some comparisons may
give us more appreciation of its qualities than would
a multitude of words.
It may seem strange to think of airplane landings in
connection with gentleness. The experience of a
“gentle landing,” one that leaves us wondering when
the wheels touched the ground, is one example we
can give about gentleness. Many factors are involved:
the landing strip, the weather, the state of the aircraft
plus the skills of the pilot. So it is with practicing
gentleness in daily life. There are situations, personalities, the state of stress, and our own level of virtue.
We all know the distress of experiencing the opposite: a “bumpy” landing! Carrying this comparison
into daily life, we know it as the “bumpiness” of
rough words that serve to spoil a perfect day, or on
the other hand, a gentle piece of advice that sets us
firmly on our way again when things have gone
Gentleness. Think of a thunderous waterfall and
then of a rippling stream. Think of a tornado and
then of a soft breeze. Think of a boxing match and
then of a mother’s tender touch of her infant.
The past months at Clyde have gradually shaped us
into curious and informed observers of the big
project of deconstruction and reconstruction of
parts of our monastery. Massive machinery had to be
used. How often there were remarks made about
how this equipment was so powerful that it could
move tons of debris or take down a
huge wall of the building, and yet in
another operation gently nudge a
large piece of concrete into place!
Gentleness is almost impossible to
find in an angry person who is
imprisoned in a self that cannot turn
outward to others. In order to understand the depths of gentleness and its
difficulty, we must, as in so many
other things, go to the Gospels to
learn from the Lord of Gentleness
We need but place ourselves before a
Christmas Crib. Seeing this scene
through the eyes of a child, we all but feel
the touch of God coming through the dim
light of the stable, barely perceptible, but
nonetheless real. God touches us as the infant he
is, and the Father touches the Son in the infinite
caress of gentleness that he wishes to give to all
There are the many instances when Jesus’ patience
might have been tried to the point of giving a less
than gentle response. We witness his gentle acceptance of the woman at the well and her evasive
answers, his gentle treatment of Zaccheus who was
so glib in justifying himself, and most of all we see
his gentleness with the children who interrupted his
Gentleness can sometimes be thought of as a lack of
strength. We hear often about the practice of “tough
love” which captures the idea of gentleness combined with the proper amount of firmness and
Pictures of God: Rilke’s Religious Poetry, Annemarie S. Kidder, “Anticipating the Passion” (from The Life of the Virgin Mary), First
Page Publications, 2005.
severity. Gentleness allows love to shine through the
pain of honest correction. St. Benedict is a master of
the art when he urges the Abbot to keep his own
frailty before his eyes so as not to crush the bruised
reed (Rule 64:13). Gentleness arises out of honest
knowledge of ourselves and awareness of our own
Actually, the Rule of Benedict might be called a
manual of instruction in the art of gentleness. While
he expects good order and discipline in the monastery, Benedict lets it be known that the guests, the
sick members, the young and the old are to be
treated with patience and consideration. This extends to those who have merited punishment but
whom he is to care for after the “loving example of
the Good Shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep in
the mountains and went in search of the one sheep
that had strayed” (Rule 27:8).
St. Hildegard of Bingen, a Benedictine who experienced dramatically the gentle touch of God in her
life, gives us the famous phrase: “Thus am I, a feather
on the Breath of God.” She sees the paradox of terror
and gentleness in God’s manifestation of Divine
Wisdom: “For She (Wisdom) is awesome in terror as
the Thunderer’s lightning and gentle in goodness as
Another monastic writer, Evagrius, includes a significant number of sayings on gentleness in his
“Proverbs.” Evagrius does not so much describe the
nature of gentleness, as to tell us the results of its
practice: “In the gentle heart, wisdom will rest.”
“Better a gentle worldly man than an irascible and
wrathful monk.” “A gentle monk, the Lord loves; but
the rash one, he will banish from himself. Out of
gentleness, knowledge is born; out of rashness,
From even these few examples, it is apparent that
gentleness is associated closely with the inner life.
Only when we begin to come in touch with the Spirit
within us and around us, and the necessity for a
minimal degree of asceticism, are our eyes opened to
appreciate the virtue of gentleness. The Spirit within
us is the Spirit of Jesus who said, “Remain in me, as I
also remain in you” (Jn 15:4). Jesus has given us
these words as the essence of the spiritual life. It is in
knowing him intimately that we begin to understand
what it means to imitate him, not only in our external actions but also in the thoughts that give birth to
words and actions. They will be gentle words and
actions only if they spring from that knowledge.
Our inner life spills over into all the senses, especially
the sense of touch. Once again, our spiritual master,
Benedict, gets to the heart of the matter when he tells
us to handle all the tools of the monastery as the
vessels of the altar. We could apply this to all created
things, especially to the gentle handling of human
hearts, the most delicate of all God’s vessels.
Perhaps no one has expressed the quality of gentleness more beautifully than Rainer Marie Rilke in his
poem about the falling of leaves in autumn, symbolizing for him the falling of all creation into the hands
The leaves are falling, falling as from far off,
as though far gardens withered in the skies;
they are falling with denying gestures.
And in the nights the heavy earth is falling
from all the stars down into loneliness.
We are all falling. This hand falls.
And look at others; it is in them all.
And yet there is One who holds this falling
endlessly gently in his hands.4
Rainer Maria Rilke
(translated by Cliff Crego)
Quoted in Sister of Wisdom: St. Hildegard’s Theology of the Feminine, Barbara Newman, University of California Press, 1998.
Ad Monachos, (in Greek and English), Translation and Commentary by Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, The Newman Press, New York, #59
ACW 2003, pp. 47, 56.
Popcorn in a
SR. DAWN ANNETTE MILLS, OSB
spent much of my youth in Valparaiso, Indiana,
one of the two largest popcorn producing regions in the United States. Fifty-five percent of
the world’s popcorn comes from Nebraska and
Indiana. If you add Ohio, Illinois and Iowa, you
account for eighty percent of the world’s popping
As the home of Orville Redenbacher, developer and
grower of one of the best known varieties of gourmet popcorn, Valparaiso was so proud of its native
son and its popcorn crop that it became the selfproclaimed “popcorn capital of the world.” Rooted
in such a famous popcorn environment, I developed
an extraordinary interest in popcorn. As our community moves into commercial popping of this
delicacy, I want to share some of my “Lectio
Popcornica” and the reflections it has generated.
Popcorn is an ancient food. Some believe it was the
first form of corn cultivated, because it stored well
and was easy to cook. For Native Americans it was a
staple food for over 8,000 years. Corn may have
begun its long evolution as a kind of grass. In the
Americas, popcorn was cultivated by the Aztecs and
Mayans in Central America and Mexico, and by the
Incas in South America. The Aztecs decorated their
Gods of Rain and Maize with strings of popcorn.
North American Indians also strung the popped
kernels on grass strings and used them for decoration in jewelry, bouquets and headdresses.
Native Americans introduced popcorn to the Pilgrims as part of the first Thanksgiving. According to
legend, the brother of Chief Massosoit brought a
full of popped corn to that harvest celebration.
Popcorn became part of American culture as festive
food for parties, barn raisings, quilting bees, and
family gatherings. Butter, grease, salt or sugar and
cinnamon were added as flavorings.
It was used later as Halloween “jack-o-lantern” teeth
and as Christmas decorations. Popped kernels were
strung and placed on trees, often with cranberries, to
give a festive look for the holidays. Mixed with syrup,
popcorn was formed into balls as a favorite treat for
generations of children. Today it is identified with
watching even the most high-tech movies, whether
in the theater or at home.
Popcorn differs from other types of corn in that its
hull is rigid and has just the right thickness to allow
it to burst open. Each kernel of popcorn contains a
small drop of water surrounded by soft starch. It
needs about 14% moisture to pop. The kernel’s hard,
impermeable outer surface keeps air out and water
in, allowing the heated kernel to act like a pressure
As the kernel heats up, the water begins to expand.
Around 212°F the water turns into steam and
changes the starch inside each kernel into a superheated gelatinous glop. As the kernel continues to
heat to about 350°F, the pressure inside the grain
builds to 135 pounds per square inch before the
kernel finally explodes. As it explodes, steam inside
the kernel is released. The starchy glop inside the
kernel becomes inflated and spills out. This puffy
starch cools instantly and forms into the odd shape
we call popped corn. A kernel can puff out 40 to 50
times its original size!
Reflecting on this process, I find a connection
between the popping process and the process of
spiritual transformation. The transformation process takes place in our deepest center, changing us
from the inside out. In both transformations there
are external catalysts—the kernel needs to be heated
and the soul needs to be stimulated by grace. As the
fire heats the corn, the flames of love, the Divine
Fire, must engulf us.
Veriditas is the spiritual process of “greening” the
heart. The ancient Israelite people believed that the
heart was the center of a person. What we mean by
mind and soul and heart, were, for the Israelite,
located in the heart. When the heart was dry and
barren, the Word of the Lord would not take root,
virtue could not grow, and love could not increase.
The moist heart, a green and juicy heart, on the
other hand, was considered receptive and fertile.
The moist heart would hear the Word of God and
bear fruit a hundredfold.
First, God waits till we have reached a certain level of
maturity. Until we have matured enough to endure
the process. Until our faith is firm and God knows
we can take the pressure. Sometimes, though, it
seems God gets pretty close to edge.
The moist heart was capable of transformation.
Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as Living Water in
John 7:37-39, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to
me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the
Scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall
flow rivers of living water.’”
Next, we need to be juicy! St. Hildegard of Bingen,
the 11th century mystic, called this juiciness veriditas.
Living in the fertile Rhine valley, Hildegard saw the
green vegetation around her as a sign of God’s life
force bearing fruit in abundance. She repeatedly
called her community to open themselves to the
green juiciness of God. She said, “We are greening
with life, we bear our fruit for all creation, limitless
love, from the depths to the stars, flooding all,
We have to let go of what we thought we were, the
kernel of ourselves, and let God shape us into who
we are meant to be. We have to become malleable,
flexible, and compliant—capable of being formed,
conformed, reformed, and transformed. The
prophet Jeremiah spoke of us being clay in the
hands of the potter. This can be likened to the
superheated starchy glop in the hands of the popcorn popper.
Popcorn is a concrete example of St. Paul’s words to
the Corinthians, “To the weak I became weak, so
that I might win the weak. I have become all things
to all people, so that I might by any means save
some” (1 Cor 9:22). May we learn to be as flexible,
adaptable, and nourishing to as many souls, as
popcorn has been for us. ✵
“Good is the Lord to the one who waits for him, to the soul that
seeks him; it is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord.”
hroughout the years, I have developed many
“spiritual boyfriends.” Anthony de Mello and
Henri Nouwen were but two who entered
my life in their writings. Although they have died (it
is evidently dangerous to be my spiritual boyfriend),
the wonder of having spent much time with these
authors is that they continue to speak to me.
his little face, preparing little robes and blankets, and
talking endlessly with her spouse about this being
created out of God’s love.
As I prepare for Advent, Nouwen once more touches
my heart. He reaffirms this Coming again and again
into our lives, and encourages us to wait patiently.
He tells us that patience comes from the Latin verb
patior, which means “to suffer.” Hm-m? But he also
tells us to live active waiting—in other words, to “live
the present moment to the full in order to find there
the signs of the One we are waiting for,”1 the Jesus
who is now and who is to come. To do that, we must
be aware of the signs of him in our everyday lives.
“Waiting,” says Nouwen, “is essential to the spiritual
life . . . Waiting for God is an active, alert—yes,
Look once more at the Father’s love for each of us,
and his ever quiet but active waiting to bestow upon
us his Gift of Gifts. Since the darkness of sin descended upon all humankind, he hinted again and
again of his son, who would lift us once more into
the long awaited Light. There would come a new
Adam. An ark would be prepared once more within
a virgin’s womb to save all humankind. He would
send an only son who, like Isaac, would carry the
wood of sacrifice. His son would be the embryo
within the womb, as was Samuel, and hear and feel
his mother as she sang and danced in joy over the
divine one resting within. This Son of David would
reign forever, and Gentile Kings would “pay him
homage” (Mt 2:2). The prophets of old would speak
of him—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah—and he would
fulfill each prophecy.
Let’s take this apart. You may be saying to yourself,
“active waiting”? Advent is far too active as it is. But
is there room for seeking Him in your everyday life,
alertly, joyfully, instead of running frantically from
store to store? Is it the active waiting of Mary as she
prepared for his birth? Of course, times were different, but pregnancy was the same . . . humming to the
little one growing beneath her heart, yearning to see
Finally, the Father readied a barren womb to conceive, and Elizabeth brought forth the precursor. The
babe waiting in her uterus was filled with the Holy
Spirit and leapt for joy. John was the final one “to
prepare the way of the Lord” (Mt 3:3). And in the
midst of darkness, Light entered the world! He was
surrounded by the love of Joseph and Mary; he was
recognized by the marginalized of His time and by
Nouwen, Henri J.M. , Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith (New York: HarperCollins ebooks, 2006);
tz8cw&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false, Entry for November 20.
Ibid., Entry for November 19.
Simeon and Anna whose lives were dedicated to
waiting. The Father has reached to each of us with
his beloved son, that we too might be his beloved
sons and daughters. (Don’t forget to send him a
“thank you card” this Christmas.)
we suffer until school gets out (teachers also). As
teens we suffer until that “certain someone” notices
us. As adults we suffer until we get that job, or loan,
or even until we get a live voice on the phone!
Look again at those prophets who were in despair
and wanted to run away from it all, those kings who
messed up royally, those barren women who were
scorned by the other ladies at the well. What of God’s
chosen ones who trudged out of slavery, yet complained daily, and whose offspring would later
trudge into Babylon because of their sinfulness?
Sorrow? Who gets through life without it? Waiting
prayerfully for your child to return to his God takes
patience. You wait to heal after the death of a loved
one, and go through years of the grieving process.
That’s patience. Perhaps you are one of his little ones
who wait for food, wait for clean water, wait to have
a home of your own, wait to be noticed by the
“haves” when you are a “have not.” Life takes
supreme patience. Truly we are all the “ones who
hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord (Lam
3:26).” May we, as Nouwen says, pay “attention to
what is happening right before our eyes and [see]
there the first rays of God’s glorious coming.” 3
Some years ago, I had the privilege of making a
retreat in Los Altos, California. Before my thirty days
were over, I learned to make an examination of
conscience (Jesuit style) with the help of my spiritual
director. Allow me to share some of its blessing. First
I make an act of God’s presence in thanksgiving,
aware of what I truly mean to God. Next I reflect and
pray for the gift of being able to see God in every
experience of the day. This is the primary and positive grace of the examination. The Spirit then helps
me to see any of my ways (interior or exterior) which
were not of God. After reflecting, I ask for the gift of
gratitude for gifts received and of sorrow to heal my
failings. Next I look over the immediate future with a
renewed sensitivity to God’s presence and call to me.
Finally I ask for those graces I will need for the
future. It seems to work best if done at midday and
at night before bed. I find it to be a positive practice
of “active waiting,” looking for the signs of God in
my life. Try it this Advent.
Happy Active Waiting! ✵
Now, what of this talk of patience = suffering?
Waiting is part and parcel of our lives. As kiddies,
This article was previously published in The Hawaiian
Benedictine, and is reprinted by permission.
Ibid., November 20.
We were created waiting.
There was not a spark yet, nor even half a spark,
instead, there was an empty space
within the cracking darkness
where a spark could be when it was time.
It was the memory of sunshine in a vein of coal.
It was the thrumming shadow of the moment
It was the point of entry for the light,
but it was not the light.
You were the light,
and you were waiting.
Christ, Our Light,
SR. JEANETTE VON HERRMANN, OSB
ovember will soon disappear, and in the
northern hemisphere winter will approach
with its shortest of days and darkest of
nights. The farther north we live, the more likely we
are to experience cold, rain, and gloomy weather. It
is the season of the proverbial “dark and stormy
night”, when the landscape becomes gray and bleak.
Some of us even feel like we are moving into a time
of hibernation, silently slowing down and patiently
waiting for a time when we can wake to spring and
As we move toward the end of the calendar year, the
season of Advent (the beginning of the Church year)
draws near. We appear to be moving in two divergent directions: toward both an ending and a beginning. The world around us is dying and being put to
rest, while the Church encourages us to experience
beginnings and the new life seen in the birth of
Christ, the Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Not only is there the disparity between conclusions
and commencements, there is also a profound
contrast: the starkness of the winter weather and
landscape stands out against the images of light that
are used during Advent and Christmas. Throughout
this time, there are references to Christ as the light in
the midst of our darkness and the brightness along
our way to the reign of God. The contrast with the
world around us invites us to notice more acutely
the images of light.
We often think of Easter as the time when the
Church remembers Christ as the light of the world,
as we celebrate his being raised from the dark tomb
into the glory of Easter morn. However, this image
of light, and insight into the effect of the Messiah’s
presence among us, is seen throughout the life of
Christ. Yes, Easter is the culmination, but the message that Christ is our light is woven into the events
of his whole life.
As we begin this Advent, waiting for the arrival of
Christ, let us reflect on what God has told us about
divine light. May we come to know more deeply the
One who is light, who continually comes into our
world, and who daily appears in our lives.
Light is associated with God from the beginning of
the scriptures. In Genesis, God’s first words are “Let
there be light.” Already there is an association between God’s word and light. Throughout the Bible,
there are many passages in which light symbolizes
the divine presence and blessing. In Numbers 6:25,
God tells Moses to bless Aaron by praying, “May the
Lord’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.”
In Psalm 18:28, we read, “For you light my lamp; the
Lord, my God, lightens my darkness,” and in Psalm
67:1, we pray, “May God be gracious to us and bless
us, and make his face shine upon us.”
Often God’s light is used to symbolize revelation,
guidance, salvation, and the personal relationship
with the chosen covenantal people. In Psalm 43:3, we
pray for God’s light and truth to be a guide that will
bring us to God’s holy mountain. This theme of
guidance is repeated in Psalm 119:105, in which
God’s living word is seen as a lamp for our feet and a
light for our path. In Psalm 27:1, God is spoken of as
our light and our salvation, and in Psalm 31:16, we
request, “Shine upon your servant and save me with
your covenantal love.” Isaiah 9:2 enlarges upon God’s
light that leads us, “The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light; on those living in the land of
the shadow of death, a light has dawned.” Often the
New Testament authors apply these passages to
Christ, emphasizing Christ as God’s light in the
darkness of sin, God’s path to salvation, and God’s
blessings of presence, life, and new creation.
Matthew writes about the Magi who follow the light
of a star—the symbol of the new king of the Jews
whom the wise ones seek. The light leads them to the
One before whom they bow in homage. We resemble
these Eastern sages, seeking and journeying in faith,
wishing to gaze upon Christ, and wanting to be
guided by the light of faith.
Luke also includes the symbol of light in his stories
of the Christ Child’s beginnings. Zechariah’s prayer
(Lk 1:67-79) refers to Jesus as “the rising Sun” who
will “give light” and “guide our feet into the way of
peace” (vv. 78-79). On the day of Jesus’ presentation,
the “upright and devout” Simeon comes to the
Temple. He holds the child in his arms and prays,
“My eyes have seen the salvation which you have
prepared for all the nations to see, a light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people
Israel” (Lk 2:29-32).
Later in his life, Jesus speaks to his followers and
connects light and discipleship. As Christ enlightens
the world, so should his disciples be light to those
around them. This light of Christ must be shared so
that others, too, will become faithful Christians.
Jesus tell us, his present day disciples, “You are the
light of the world” (Mt 5:14-16). He encourages us
to be like him, doing good works that lead others to
the praise of the Father. Jesus enlarges upon this
theme (Lk 11:33-36), commanding that we not hide
the light, the grace, the life of God that has been
placed within us. We must “put the light on a stand,”
that is, out in public where it may inspire others. The
gifts that God provides for each of us are to be used
for others, to lead them into the realm of light and
grace. Advent invites us not only to recognize the
light of Christ coming into our world, but also to
make sure that light is evident. The light becomes
unmistakably apparent when we have welcomed it,
allowed it to take up a home within us and then
offered it to others.
John’s Gospel, more than any other, speaks of Jesus
as the Light. In his prologue, John writes that the life
within Jesus is the light for every one of us, not just
for some (1:4-5). This light shines upon the darkness, on everything that separates from God. This
true light illumines every person (1:9), allowing each
of us to be a faithful disciple, one who knows, loves,
and serves the God who fills our lives with that light
Christ offers us a choice: the light of God’s life or the
darkness that symbolizes the opposite. Will we
choose the light and become children of God, or will
we reject the light and accept the dark separation? As
we struggle with the choices of life or death, light or
darkness, we realize that we are not in that battle
alone. The Father has sent the Christ into the world
that we might “not be lost, but have eternal life.” He
came not to condemn but to save each of us (Jn
3:16-18). God’s intent is to save, to offer light, to
bring us into eternal life. Advent is a time to renew
our acceptance of this gift.
Jesus clearly invites each of us to make that choice.
“I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me
will not be walking
in the dark; but will
have the light of life”
(Jn 8:12). This “I
AM” is one of John’s
statements, identifying Jesus with the
God who, at the
burning bush, reveals
his name as “I AM”
(Ex 3:14). As the
light of that bush
draws Moses to God,
so the illumination
of Christ attracts each of us. If we follow Christ, even
in what seems like the dark of winter, we truly walk
in the light.
This light in our midst can be understood by an
allegory.1 Imagine a group of friends, each holding a
small mirror. Some of the mirrors are broken with
cracks deep into their surface and so they reflect
imperfectly. Other mirrors are covered with duct
tape, eradicating their ability to reflect. Others are
spotted, dusty and need a dose of window cleaner.
Then there are those who shine and reflect very well.
The leader has a laser whose small red beam can be
pointed at the small mirrors. On a foggy night, the
beam of light is particularly apparent. It reflects off
the clean mirrors so well that it is passed on to other
mirrors. However, the covered mirrors don’t receive
the beam, and the cracked and spotted ones only
partially pass on the light. God the Father is holding
the laser and Christ is the light being passed from
each mirror (disciple) to another. The fog is the
world around us,
our experiences, and
every grace that
allows us to see light
more clearly. The
cracks in the mirror
are imperfections of
our spirits and the
duct tape is those
sins that isolate us
from God. Our job,
with God’s assistance, is to fix the
mirrors of our lives,
to polish, glue, or
unwrap them, so that each experience of Christ can
be passed on to another disciple. This is the call of
Advent: be the instrument by which the Light of the
World can continue to shine for all to see.
Advent invites us to move closer to the light. We are
encouraged in the midst of the dying days of the
year, in the starkness and dreariness of winter, in the
darkness of sin, to respond to the coming light. We
are invited to enter into that light of Christ’s presence, forgiveness, and life that show us the path to
May each candle of the Advent wreath remind us of
the light of grace. May each week, with each additional candle and increased light, enhance our
experience of God’s presence. May this Advent bring
us closer to the God who moves closer to us, to the
God who is constantly inviting us to intimacy, the
God who is light in our midst. ✵
Thanks to Donald Kelley, Esq, of Silverton, Oregon, for this explanation.
BLESSINGS AND BEQUESTS
SR. DAWN ANNETTE MILLS, OSB
y family is and was a
wonderful conglomeration of
wise fools, foolish scholars,
princely paupers, generous
squanderers, sinful saints
and saintly sinners. We had
a male lineage that included O.
L. Mills I through IV, and females
with names such as Opal and Pearl,
Orpha and Bethel, Dawn and Dusk. My mother’s
family came to this country on the next boat after
the Mayflower, the William and Mary, in 1623. My
father’s family countered that claim, saying they
came on a boat of their own. It was not quite the
truth, as great grandfather was a young stowaway in
a grain barrel on a boat out of Ireland.
My family didn’t have much in the way of material
possessions. We had very few heirlooms, and lots of
hand-me-downs. Yet, my parents, grandparents,
and great-grandparents left behind a glorious
legacy to every member of my family. We received a
rich heritage of stories, narratives, anecdotes and
legends. Each was imbued with values, cautionary
advice, testimonies of faith, and proclamations of
God’s powerful intervention.
My mother’s mother, Jennie
Williams Hjellming, was a
can-do woman who was
editor of her hometown
newspaper until a rival
newspaperman put her out
of business by marrying her.
Jennie had seven children,
though they were never all
present for a single meal.
Jennie died at the age of
eighty-six, at a prayer
meeting in her local church.
She stood up and shared on
her portion of Scripture,
then sat down and died. She
left our family two tangible
treasures: her sewing box and her
Bible. Both contained pearls. The
sewing box had a string of natural pearls that eventually came to adorn my sister’s wedding dress. The
Bible contained not only the pearls of Holy Wisdom,
but the notes, comments and reflections that
Grandma had penciled in the margins. In her last
years, my own mother spent hours praying with her
mother’s Bible and found herself feeling closer to
God and to her mother than ever before. It seemed
that Jennie had left my mother personal messages
through those marginal notes.
Bible reading was time spent personally with God
and God’s Word and was passed down from generation to generation on my mother’s side. My generation has two precious hand-me-downs from these
women: we have my grandmother’s annotated Bible
and my mother’s own Bible as well. The only picture
I have of my great grandmother, Matilda, is of her
reading her Bible in her living room on a Sunday
afternoon. According to my mother, love of the Bible
wasn’t passed down through the women only. My
grandfather, her father, used to memorize long
sections of Sacred Scripture to recite when he was
out in the fields working the crops. His practice
encouraged me to learn the Book of the Song of
Songs by heart some years ago.
Part of my love for Benedictine life is the use of the
Bible in Benedictine prayer. We pray together from
Sacred Scriptures at least five times every day. Then
we spend at least an hour on our own engaged in
sacred reading of the Bible—what monastics call
lectio divina. It feels natural to me as it is part of my
Faith in an ever-present loving God is also part of
my inheritance from my mother. Her mother was a
friend of Jesus. Her mother’s mother was a disciple
at the Master’s feet. Before converting to Catholicism as an adult, I
didn’t know what a nun was. But
someone who lived and walked and
talked with Jesus—well that was just
a normal way of being in the family.
The inheritance from my father’s
side was a bit more secular, but just
as real. My father was a troubadour
prince who never set much store by
material goods. He was more the fiddling grasshopper than the industrious ant. It wasn’t that he didn’t
put in a hard day’s work, but he really believed that
God who fed the birds of the air and clothed the
lilies of field would provide for our needs as well. If
someone needed something, he was quick to give. He
knew God would not be outdone in charity. His
belief in Divine Providence is one of the greatest
gifts he could give his children, and I have treasured
that gift all my life.
I have never in my life worried about money. I’ve
sometimes had too much month left when money
ran out, but I asked God and somehow the ends
always met. Sometimes I needed to tug and stretch a
little. Always, when it really counted, God provided,
though he has repeatedly used human channels to do
so. I was taught not to be ashamed to ask for help if I
needed it, but to be prepared to do the footwork.
After all, Jesus said, “ask…seek…knock.”
My father enjoyed spending his free days down at the
local junk yard. There people would bring things
they didn’t want anymore: used furniture, old toys,
things that no longer held value to the present owner
and weren’t worth the trouble of a rummage sale. My
father never could abide to have a religious article
left with the junk, so every room in our house had a
cross or crucifix, sometimes even a statue or religious painting, and a Bible that had paused at the
junk yard before finding a place of respect and
honor in our house. We were the envy of the neighborhood because we had more toys than any other
family. They weren’t brand new toys, but they were
new to us. Dad would find them and fix them. Mom
would paint them, polish them, and make new
clothes or upholstery so they looked new.
Before it became socially responsible, my parents
bequeathed me the ability to reuse and recycle, to
remake and make do. Even today I take their example to heart when I make gifts and recycle things
for others. I see that same knowledge reflected in the
choices my brother and sister make in their lives.
Memories are another treasure trove that the family
passed down. My mother was very interested in
genealogy, and found wonderful memories of our
ancestors. We have stories about the founding of
Rhode Island by one ancestor and the signing of the
Declaration of Independence by another. Johnny
Appleseed (the Reverend John Chapman) sat on one
branch of the family tree, while a Union General
from the Civil War sat on another. In between were
sailors, merchants, farmers and ministers. There
were also drunkards, swindlers and land-grabbers,
and probably a horse thief or two. Mother’s family
descended from William the Conqueror. Dad’s
family was part leprechaun, or so he said. Mom said
that Dad was also part fool. Dad always wanted to
know which part.
Listening to stories and collecting them also became
part of our family heritage. My favorite job in the
monastery was to work with our elderly sisters and
be the “official story listener.” I collected in my heart
the stories of
my sisters, and
from generation to generation in the
story, happy or
sad, holy or otherwise, is part of the patrimony of
our religious family. Some stories are factual, others
are true, even if the facts are a bit fuzzy. All stories
hold value, because they teach us about each other,
about love, humanity, hope and laughter, and Divine
Some treasured stories were told without words. My
father died when my siblings and I were young
children. Mom explained death with a story about a
caterpillar becoming a butterfly. It was a simple way
of talking about St. Paul’s teaching about mortal and
immortal bodies. When Mom knew that she was
dying, many years later, she chose a mortuary urn
decorated with an engraving of a monarch butterfly.
That urn became her last words to her children—the
final reminder that life is changed, not ended.
Faith was part of our heritage. It came not just
through stories, or even through words, but through
witnessing the faithfulness of our parents. Mom
prayed, went to church, and tithed regularly. She also
gave her time and talent to causes she believed in.
She was part of the Mother’s March of Dimes against
polio back in the 1950s. When a neighbor child was
diagnosed with cerebral palsy she became quite
active in raising funds for that cause. She gave in
many ways during her life, and witnessed by her
charity, even after her death, to her enduring values.
Dad, too, left us a testament of his beliefs. He spent
time fishing with Jesus, seeking for treasures in the
field, and giving to those in need. He taught us that
grown men do cry, for sad and for happy. He showed
us that you don’t have to stop playing when you
grow up, that it’s as easy to dance as to walk, and to
sing as to talk. He taught us to look down on no one,
except to watch over them. His life carried the
message that long or short isn’t a measure of fullness.
As a Christian and a Benedictine, I look to the legacy
Jesus left us in the Gospels. The Eucharist itself is
done, remembering Jesus. In his last night before his
passion and death he left his disciples his example of
servant leadership as he washed their feet. He left us
the new commandment: “love one another, as I have
loved you.” And how did he love? He laid down his
life. He gave all that he was that we might be made
one in him, one with each other and one with the
It is a custom in the monastery, when a sister dies,
for the community to gather and tell stories about
Sister’s life, about what she accomplished, what she
taught us, what we saw in her, and how we were
helped by her being among us. It is a memorial
service and we share memories, but it is also a kind
of spiritual Last Will and Testament, as we share
what we have each received from Sister’s legacy. It
makes me wonder how I will be remembered. What
is the legacy, the Testament, the heritage I leave
behind? How will my values, my causes, my hopes
and dreams, my love, be carried into the future? I
trust Divine Providence will take care of my soul.
But what will I leave in this world?
The year’s end is a good time to reflect on the
memories and stories that have helped to shape our
lives. While we gratefully consider this legacy, we do
well to consider now, while we have time, what our
legacy will be to those who come after us. How will
they remember us, and how will we be a blessing in
their lives? ✵
The Benedictine Sisters create a
new way to show their gratitude
What is the Bread of Life Legacy Society?
The Bread of Life Legacy Society honors those who have
included the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in a
planned gift. Its name emphasizes the personal opportunity to leave a legacy in the context of the Adoration of
Why should I join the Bread of Life Legacy Society?
How does it benefit me?
Planned giving allows you to support the Benedictine
Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, while often receiving
significant tax benefits. Joining the Bread of Life Legacy
Society offers additional benefits. Society Members will be
assured of daily prayers, honored in a special celebration of
the Eucharist each November, and will have their names
inscribed on a Bread of Life memorial in Clyde, Missouri.
Joining the Bread of Life Legacy Society also gives the
Sisters the opportunity to express their undying gratitude
and discuss with you your desires for the use of your gift. It
allows others to be inspired by knowing you are gifting the
Sisters and their ministry of prayer. There are no meetings
or dues associated with the society.
What will the money go toward?
Unless specially designated, funds which come to the
Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration go toward the
major needs of the Congregation. As always, the Sisters
appreciate all gifts and we use them with prudent stewardship to support our ministry of prayer, education of newer
members, and care for all the sisters.
How do I join the Bread of Life Legacy Society?
You are included in the Bread of Life Legacy Society simply
by notifying us that you have remembered our Congregation as a beneficiary in your will or life insurance, or that
you have named us in a charitable trust.
One of my family members gave a planned gift to
the Benedictine Sisters. Can they be honored by
inclusion in the Bread of Life Legacy Society?
Of course! We will certainly be happy to include those
who were kind enough to include us in their ultimate gift,
even before we formed the Bread of Life Legacy Society.
Please contact us with the names of your loved ones, and
we will be happy to include them in any and all remembrances.
Where can I learn more?
There is a wealth of information on our website about
planned gifts: at www.benedictinesisters.org. Select
“Donate,” then choose “Make a bequest,” or choose
“Planned giving” and click on options on the left side to
go to related articles. Or you may contact Sr. Wilmarie
Ehrhardt, as described below.
Whom do I contact with questions?
Sr. Wilmarie Ehrhardt, OSB, is Coordinator of Planned Gifts
for the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. You
may contact her by phone at 660-944-2271, or by email
at [email protected] You may also wish to
contact your own attorney, financial advisor, or accountant, to discuss the many tax advantages and opportunities tied to planned gifts for charitable purposes.
Bread of Life Legacy Society Benefits
• Planned giving often comes with significant tax
• Society members are part of the daily prayers of the
• Society members are honored in a special celebration
of the Eucharist each November
• Society members’ names are inscribed on a Bread of
Life memorial in Clyde, MO
Sister Mary Annette
Leonard, OSB, was
thrilled with the new
slippers she received for
her 82nd birthday in
OSB, shows off her
winnings from a
round of Bingo at
Our Lady of
Friends helping friends
Knights of Columbus and their families spend day sprucing up
San Benito Monastery
Benedictine Sisters at the San Benito
Monastery in Dayton, Wyoming, were
greeted with friendly faces and helping
hands during the Knights of Columbus
annual workday. Fifteen Knights and
their families spent the day fixing fences
and handling home repairs. These
included repairing a leaking roof,
pruning trees, installing rails on trail
steps, waterproofing the porch and
ramp to the chapel, and repairing a
“We are deeply grateful for all the help
that the Knights and their families are
able to give us,” Sister Josetta Grant, San
Benito superior, said. “They do things
that we are unable to do. It is a
joy for us each year when they
come to help us.”
(Top left photo)The Sisters
thanked the Knights and their
families with a wonderful picnic;
(Far left photo) Katherine and
Elizabeth Winnop, who accompanied their parents, Teresa and
Terry Winnop, for the Knights
of Columbus annual workday;
(Left photo) Andy McFaul and
his son were handy with
Follow Us Online at
Sister attends V
News & Notes from
1. Sister Nat
alia reaches milestone
Sister Natalia Barela celebrated her 103rd
birthday in July, becoming the oldest Sister in the Congregation’s history. Friends,
family, and Sisters honored her with a
reception and cake.
2. Medieval Studies workshop
Sister Nancy Rose (third from left) joined seven other temporarily professed
sisters and two directors for Vow Camp.
It’s affectionately called Vow Camp, but it serves an important purpose:
helping women prepare to take their perpetual monastic vows.
Sister Nancy Rose Gucwa joined seven other sisters from June 21 to July
12 at Sacred Heart Monastery in Cullman, Alabama, host to the annual
Benedictine Spirituality Workshop and Retreat, sponsored by the American Benedictine Formation Conference.
The two-week workshop included a focus on community building and
reviewing significant aspects of Benedictine life such as Benedictine
charism, the three-fold monastic commitment of obedience, stability, and
conversatio (fidelity to the monastic way of life), lectio divina and contemplation, monastic prayer, discernment, cenobitic community, celibacy,
sexuality and personal wholeness, Gospel ministry, reverence, stewardship and hospitality, peace and justice, and humility.
The event concluded with a six-day directed retreat for prayerful reflection and one-on-one direction.
“Our classes on the vows, the Rule of Benedict and many other facets of
monastic life brought me to a deeper appreciation of our life together,”
Sister Nancy Rose said. “I look forward to continuing my journey toward
and with Christ together with my Sisters.”
Sister Colleen Maura McGrane presented
Posthumous Benedictine Cooperation:
Benedict and Scholastica’s Resurrection
Miracle in Translatio at Western Michigan University’s International Congress
on Medieval Studies.
Low-gluten altar breads were featured in
several publications this summer, including the Portland Oregonian, Living Without magazine, and in the Seattle
Archdiocese’s The Progress.
4. Fun at the fair
Sisters Dawn Annette Mills and Maria
Victoria Cutaia hosted an informational
booth at the Nodaway County Fair in
July, in Maryville, Missouri. They featured
handcrafted items and information about
the Sacred Stones, Sacred Stories project.
5. Contemplative workshop
Sisters Mary Anita Valdez and Cecilia
Rose Sprekelmeyer attended a workshop
conducted by Father Richard Rohr at the
Center for Action and Contemplation in
Albuquerque, New Mexico.
red Stones in the news
Clyde renovations were featured in The
Catholic Key, newspaper of the Kansas
City-St. Joseph Diocese, and on KXCV-FM,
the area’s National Public Radio affiliate.
Prayerfully Popped Is Launched
Sisters’ new work provides perfect partnership
With more than one hundred years of altar bread
production and magazine publishing under their belts,
the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have
added a new business to their income-generating portfolio—Prayerfully Popped: Corn from the Cloister, a line
of gourmet popcorn that will be produced near the
Sisters’ Tucson monastery.
The Benedictine Sisters remain the largest religious
producers of altar breads in the nation, but for some time
have been exploring additional revenue streams. After a
period of discernment and discussion of viable products,
they and their partners decided to bank on the popularity of one of the nation’s favorite snacks.
“Everyone loves popcorn,” said Sarah Caniglia of 5k9
Consulting Inc, a partner in the new business. “We use the
highest quality corn kernels to make our popcorn
superior in taste. All of the corn is grown in the United
States, and we are proud of that fact.”
Since May, the Sisters and other Prayerfully Popped
associates have been selecting the right location for the
business in Tucson, securing permits and licenses,
designing a logo and packaging, building a website,
training employees and creating recipes. They’ve also
been busy with a more enjoyable task—taste-testing
varieties of popcorn flavors.
“We’ve had several sessions during which Sisters tried
different flavors and provided feedback,” Tucson Prioress
Sister Ramona Varela, said. “What a fun time we had, and
I think we picked some real winners.”
pe that the st
w a bbusiness
uld bbee rrun
ith rree gar
ds ttoo int
inteeg r it
e, and br
orss as the
theyy ggoo oout
– Sarah Caniglia, 5k9 Consulting Inc.
Prayerfully Popped is unique in one aspect: it’s a collaborative effort among many people, not just the Sisters.
Joining in the new venture are Eller School of Business
students at the University of Arizona, along with Caniglia
and her business partner, Cindy Griffith. Together they
were the creative force behind LaserMonks and are the
owners of 5k9 Consulting Inc.
This exceptional partnership allows the Sisters to keep
the balance of their monastic life of prayer and work. At
the monastery they will engage in such activities as
labeling containers, creating gift baskets and handling
mailings. They will also assist with producing and
packaging at the shop, along with managing customer
“One very unique aspect of this business is that the
Sisters will also get to share their lives with, and mentor
University of Arizona business students,” Caniglia said. “I
hope that the students learn how a business should be
run with regards to integrity, honor, and conscience, and
bring these qualities to their future endeavors as they go
out into the business world. Corporations can take a
lesson from the way this business is run day to day.”
Continued on next page
While the Sisters will incorporate the Benedictine
spirituality of prayer and work into the new business, as
they’ve done with all their works over the generations,
“One might call it a hot idea
that really pops.”
(left to right) Sr. Kathleen Gorman, OSB, Sr. Mary
Elizabeth Krone, OSB, John Leavitt, Sr. Lucia Anne Le,
OSB, Sr. Carmela Rall, OSB
The house stood firm
To assist with storm recovery efforts, please visit
Late summer storm
hammers Clyde monastery
SISTER SEAN DOUGLAS, OSB AND
The Clyde monastery was slammed
with hail and high-velocity winds during
a storm in late August. Some weather
centers clocked the winds at 100 miles
per hour. No one was injured, but more
than 114 windows were destroyed
throughout the monastery buildings.
Other casualties included dozens of
damaged trees, roofing, the bell tower,
landscaping, water-logged carpets, and
soaked personal items in bedrooms.
“We were very fortunate that no one was injured,” Sister
Sean Douglas, Prioress, said. “After the storm, we witnessed a multitude of blessings and clear evidence of
God’s work, as many employees, neighbors and friends
came to help. It looks a little ragged right now, but after a
time we’ll be stronger and better than ever.”
How everything will be replaced remains to be seen.
Some of the destroyed items are not readily replaceable,
including stained glass windows that predate World War
I. “There is a difference between replacement and restoration,” said one of the General Councilors, Sister Dawn
Annette Mills. “We’ve already contacted the company
that originally created the windows and are eager to learn
if they can be recreated.”
The Sisters quickly got back to their daily lives, including
the very evening the storm struck.
(Left photo) The storm destroyed
dozens of stained glass windows,
including two in the Sorrowful
Mother Chapel, which date to
1901. (Top photo) A twisted
trunk is most of what remains
from a tree after high winds
mowed it down, before slamming
into the north wall of the Relic
Chapel. Wind and hail took out
most of the windows on that side.
“We prayed together, thanking God for watching over us
and were especially drawn to a passage from Matthew 7,”
Sister Dawn Annette said. “The rains came and the
winds blew, but the house stood firm because it was built
on rock. God was our rock and our refuge.”
Prayerfully Popped Is Launched
(Continued from previous page)
Caniglia calls this a “project of love”
among the Benedictine Sisters, the
Tucson community, the University of
Arizona, and customers. Many not-for-profit groups are
struggling in today’s tight economy, and organizations
are exploring creative ways to find revenue-building
projects to provide long-term sustainability.
“However, there needs to be an almost perfect balance
between prayer and profit for the Benedictine Sisters,
always keeping in mind that when a customer purchases
a gourmet popcorn gift, he or she is supporting their
Congregation,” Caniglia said.
(Contined on back cover)
postage paid at Tucson, AZ
(Story continued from page 21)
The Sisters hope this
new business venture will
accomplish several things:
generate new income; forge new, lasting
friendships and relationships; and provide
additional ways to mentor youth in business and in prayer.
“It is a monastic value based on the Rule of
St. Benedict that, before we start anything,
we ask for God’s blessing,” Sister Ramona
said. “With God in our hearts, everything
we do is part of our daily prayer and, in
fact, part of our praise, adoration and
Discover more about our
new gourmet popcorn at
Available varieties include classic, savory,
sweet, seasonal and decadent. Choose from ten
flavors, including Cheddar Adobo, Cinnamon/Sugar, Sea Salt
Caramel, and many other wonderful flavors. Limited holiday offerings include White Peppermint Bark and Rocky Road.
See story details
on page 20.
800 North Country Club Road • Tucson, AZ 85716-4583
www.spiritandlifemagazine.com • E-mail: [email protected]
Congregation website: www.benedictinesisters.org
Gift certificates are available.
Store location at
1525 N. Wilmot Road
Tucson, AZ 85712-4430
Toll Free Phone/Fax: 800-939-8323
Email: [email protected]